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  • Michael Philp

Lazy or Afraid?

It's a common phrase I hear from a client when reviewing their homework. "I'm just lazy I suppose" as a reason for not completing some homework task that we had discussed. These tasks are often around important goals that my client has identified. Because the task was important to the client, and they usually left my office the week before determined to follow through, I am reasonably confident that motivation, and therefore laziness, is not the issue. Rather, there is a fear or anxiety about the activity, that we convince ourselves that it is okay not to do it.

We are really good at letting ourselves off the hook

If you've ever had the intention to get fit and start running, and then look outside the window and think "it's a bit wet today, I'll go tomorrow", you'll know how good we are at letting ourselves off the hook. Even if we are really motivated, for example to lose weight. Our brains are fantastic at rationalising excuses and making them sound legitimate.

"The test was on subjects from last term" = "I hadn't adequately prepared myself for the test".

"I'm late because the traffic was awful" = "I didn't get ready with enough time to allow for unexpected delays".

And so on. But most often - "I didn't put my resume in because I'm lazy"; "I didn't make that phone call because I'm lazy"; "I didn't see my friend for coffee because I'm lazy". The reality is - I didn't do those things because I was worried, anxious, or afraid. "I didn't put my resume in because I was afraid I wouldn't get the job"; "I didn't make that phone call because it meant facing up to a responsibility that I'm anxious about"; "I didn't go see my friend for coffee because I worry I won't have anything interesting to say and I'll be rejected". By being put in those situations, it exposes us to feelings that we find uncomfortable or upsetting.

How to stop using excuses

What does it mean to you if you go for a job and you actually get it? What does it mean to you if you have to face up to a responsibility? It might mean you are placed in to a situation that is confronting. You might not succeed. You might be challenged. Or your self-identity might change. Instead of someone who is unlucky in love, you might have to do some self-exploration and make some changes as to why your relationships keep failing. It is easier, and more comfortable, to say that you are unlucky and to have your friends also validate these beliefs. The main thing that we need to do is start to catch out our automatic, self-sabotaging thoughts, and question them. Start asking yourself probing questions and don't allow the anxiety part of your brain to give your falsely justified responses. It also means admitting that the task or activity will be hard or uncomfortable. But often things that are hard and uncomfortable are the tasks most worth doing.

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